Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Quaker Alphabet Blog Week 52 - Z for Zed

Well here we are at the end of 2013and I have come to the end of this year's Quaker Alphabet blog. This post is about Zed, the ending (or not) and what I have learned over the year.

Firstly I would like to say a big thank you to my fellow bloggers, Rhiannon and Stephanie. Without their inspiration and different take on subjects I think I would have given up long ago. Rhiannon has already started a new project based on the liturgy and I look forward to finding out what Stephanie will do next.

The format we agreed on, with two consecutive posts for each letter, allowed me to divide my posts up into one biography and one general topic for each segment. I made a plan at the beginning of the year and sketched out some possible subjects, some of which I stuck to and some of which changed. Sometimes I really did not know what I was going to say until I sat down at the computer to write while other posts took more than a week to research. I also enjoyed finding images to go with the words.

My blog has never been one to attract a lot of traffic. My statistics would normally show me fifty viewings or less although sometimes I seemed to say something that more people wanted to read and my views reached several hundred. For the Quaker Alphabet the picture has not changed a lot, although I have become aware of what a difference sharing posts on Facebook and Twitter can make. However occasionally this year my posts have been noticed by Quakerquaker and this has made quite a difference. I am not expecting to reach vast numbers of people but I have enjoyed the comments, both on the blog and on Facebook, and am glad that sometimes what I write seems to have been helpful.

Having said that I am not playing the numbers game I have done some analysis of the first 50 weeks! My most popular post was on Solitude and Sociability with 730 views, way out in front of the next contender Visiting at 358. 5 posts reached more than 300 views and 8 posts more than 200. The largest group of posts (23) were viewed over 100 times with 13 posts reaching less than 100 views. The least popular post at the moment is Y for Yearly Meeting with 44 views but even that is not bad for my blog. On the whole the topics were more popular than the biographies but I am happy to report that it was a close run thing and my fourth most viewed post was on Solomon Eccles

It was good for me to write regularly and I hope to continue to do so. I shall therefore be starting another Quaker Alphabet blog in 2014 although this time I will be writing it every two weeks. I hope that the space between will fill with other posts on a greater variety of topics - let's wait and see! I also hope that more people will take part in this endeavour so that we can share a greater variety of Quaker voices. I have set up an 'event' on Facebook which I hope will have some result and if anyone reading this feels inspired to try a Quaker Alphabet blog for 2014 do please comment. There is no restriction on the form which such an enterprise should take - short or long, words or pictures or a combination of both - just give it a go!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Quaker Alphabet Blog Week 51 - Z for Zephaniah Fry

The first Zephaniah Fry to become a Quaker was born in 1658 in Sutton Benger, a small village near Chippenham in Wiltshire, and made woolen cloth for a living. He was convinced by the powerful preaching of Solomon Eccles and was imprisoned for his faith from 1683 to 1685 when he was freed under the general amnesty after the death of Charles II. For the rest of his life he lived quietly and raised a large family as respectable Quakers before his death in 1728.

His son Zephaniah, born in 1688, also lived a quiet life in another village near Chippenham, marrying and having just one son, born in 1716 (who he called, unsurprisingly, Zephaniah). Unfortunately this Zephaniah lost his father when he was only two months old, although his mother could rely on an extensive network of respectable Quaker Fry relations to help with his upbringing.  In time Zephaniah moved to Bristol and became prosperous as a woolen draper. In 1741 he married Abigail Hiscox and the couple had two children, Robert and Elizabeth, born in 1742 and 1744. All seemed set fair for another Zephaniah Fry to lead a quiet respectable life, but ten years later a scandal arose of his own making.

Ann Jenkins was also a Quaker and a servant in Zephaniah's household. In August 1753, unmarried, she gave birth to a son who she named James Jenkins and Bristol Monthly Meeting felt that it had no choice but to bring the scandal into the open. A minute made matters very clear -
This meeting having been informed that Zephaniah Fry has lived in Criminal Conversation [adultery] with his late [former] servant Ann Jenkins, and said Fry, having sent into this Meeting a letter signifying his being under strong conviction for his late misconduct and his Sorrow for the same, William Gayner and William Fry are desired to pay Z. Fry a Visit on this Melancholly occasion, and to desire two Women Friends to visit Ann Jenkins.

A month later the two women Friends reported that their visit to Ann Jenkins resulted in a confession and admission that she hath been lately delivered of a Bastard child of whom Z Fry was the Father. In spite of their contrition both parents were disowned by Bristol Friends in order to clear the Society from any aspersions that may be cast on our principles by reason of such scandalous practices, although the possibility of future forgiveness was not withdrawn.

Zephaniah had acknowledged his son as his responsibility but wanted nothing to do with him personally. He also refused to allow Ann to keep her baby. Having lost her job and unable to gain another in Bristol because of the scandal, she moved to London where she had relatives who could support her. Baby James was put out to nurse with a non-Quaker family in a village just outside Bristol. The mortality rate for infants in this situation was very high - perhaps a fact which Zephaniah was counting on - but James survived.

Two years after his disownment Zephaniah applied for readmission and was accepted. It does not appear that Ann Jenkins ever regained her membership. When he was 10 James was sent to London as an apprentice to his kinsman John Fry, although at that time he did not know of the relationship. Here James met his mother again but only briefly as she died of consumption in 1764.

Zephaniah Fry died in 1787, leaving his son James Jenkins £300 (compared with trusts for his legitimate children and their offspring worth at least £5000) which allowed him to buy a stake in a business. There is no evidence that father and son ever met. James's whole life and attitude was shaped by the shame of his illegitimacy. Although he became a Quaker when he was an apprentice in Ireland and was treated with kindness by many Friends and relations he was always particularly aware of any hint of hypocrisy in the Society. In later life he compiled a volume of Records and Recollections which gave some details of his life and also his impressions of 'weighty Friends' he had known, painting them 'warts and all' instead of idealising them as official testimonies often did. James's writings give us a valuable, because often partial and prejudiced, view of Quakers in the 18th century and we have the circumstances of his birth to thank for that.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Quaker Alphabet Blog Week 50 - Y for Yearly Meeting

I can almost echo Amelia Opie when she said in 1843, 'Yearly Meeting has engrossed me much as usual, for I never missed one sitting since I obtained the great privilege of belonging to it '. I have certainly attended almost every sitting of Britain Yearly Meeting since I joined Friends in 1980 but in fact my first experience of Yearly Meeting was not as a member.

D Elton Trueblood
In 1975 I was working in Friends House Library and attended Yearly Meeting as a member of staff (with a red name badge to mark me out as I remember it). We were very busy attending to enquiries from Friends from all over the country and indeed all over the world. It was a great opportunity to get an impression of the wide variety of Quakers and to see them 'warts and all.' I particularly remember a visit from the weighty American Friend D.Elton Trueblood who stunned us with his parting remark as he left the library - "Now I must go and meet some real people"!

Edward H. [Ted] Milligan
The library closed when YM was in session and the librarian, the redoubtable Ted Milligan, encouraged us to go into the meeting where we sat together in specially allocated seats. As I was so new to Quakers and Quakerism he kindly sat beside me and explained what was going on and who people were. I particularly remember an elderly woman Friend dressed in a striking black hat and cloak and sitting in the front row  - Sybil White, then in her late eighties. I learned a lot about friends' eccentricities but was also inspired by their good sense and commitment.

Sybil White at YM 1978
But it was not just the people that drew me back to Yearly Meeting and into membership of the Religious Society of Friends. It was the experience, which amazed me then and continues to amaze me now, of a very large room full of noisy, opinionated, talkative people dropping all at once into silent worship. It was the power of that worship and the depth of vocal ministry that sometimes arose from it that reached me then and continues  - not in every meeting certainly but in enough - to reach me now.

I wish that more Friends would look outside their local meetings and take the opportunity to attend Yearly Meeting. Of course it is good to meet Friends from other meetings - as early Friends put it 'to see one anothers faces'- and to get a sense of the variety of Quakers. But it is by worshipping together, in such a large and diverse group as well as in our familiar surroundings, that we can reach for and find the Light that binds us all together in unity in spite of our outward differences.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Quaker Alphabet Blog Week 49 - Y for Isabel Fell, later Yeamans, afterwards Morrice

Swarthmoor Hall
Isabel Fell was the third of the eight children born to Thomas and Margaret Fell (later Fox) in about 1637. In 1652 when she was fifteen years old she was convinced of the truth of Quakerism, along with her mother and some of her siblings, when George Fox visited the family home of Swarthmoor Hall in Lancashire. The house became a centre for the new movement and Isabel was a vital part of its development. 

In 1664 Isabel married another active Quaker William Yeamans, who was a merchant in Bristol where the couple set up home. They had two sons and two daughters but William junior and Margaret died in infancy. In 1674 Isabel's husband William died and she made extended visits back to the family home at Swarthmoor with her daughter Rachel and her surviving son, also named William. She began to travel in the ministry, particularly to meetings in the North, leaving her children in the care of their grandmother and aunts, although Rachel died in 1676 at the age of ten.

Swarthmoor Hall Quaker Tapestry panel
At this time and throughout her life Isabel was much concerned with the establishment and continuance of women's meetings among Friends in the face of opposition from some Quakers. In a letter written at Swarthmoor in 1676 she says that womens meetings should be ‘constant and frequent...to wait upon the lord to feel his power to administer counsel, wisdom and instruction that thereby your minds may be seasoned and fitted for the lord’s business.’  It is, she says, the work of the ‘elder and honourable women’ to be ‘teachers of good things that they may teach the young women according to the holy apostles’ exhortation and so be good examples and patterns of prudence...’ ‘Here will be work and business enough for us all that none need to be Idle in God’s vineyard, but as we have everyone received a measure of God’s spirit and grace some may be fellow helpers and workers together with our brethren in the work of the lord in these gospel days... ‘ ‘So every member of the body whereof Christ our lord is head may be serviceable and although we may be many members and some much more honourable than others yet no member though it be small is to be despised.’

In 1677 Isabel was chosen to accompany her step-father George Fox, William Penn, George Keith and Robert Barclay, the latter two accompanied by their wives, to preach Quakerism in Holland and Germany. Isabel herself preached to Princess Elizabeth of the Palatinate who admired her 'curious voice and freer way of delivering herself.' In 1678 Isabel travelled in Scotland with Robert Barclay and his wife and for the next dozen years she lived in various places including London and Stockton on Tees, where she was again much involved with women's meetings.

Lincoln meeting house built by Abraham Morrice
In 1690, at the age of 53 and after sixteen years of widowhood,  Isabel married another Quaker merchant, Abraham Morrice of Lincoln, and settled there. Her son William Yeamans died at the house of one of his aunts in 1698 when he was only 29 and Isabel and Abraham both died in 1704 when she was 67 years old.

Isabel was a Quaker pioneer who, although acknowledged as knowledgeable and accomplished by others, defined the true believer as one who had transcended intellectual accomplishments. ‘So look not for [God] in the shadows and forms without the power and substance',she wrote, 'nor be satisfied with the hearing of him by the hearing of the ear, or a notional traditional knowledge.’ She called instead for a gradual spiritual regeneration, an inward response to wisdom’s gentle voice within the soul. ‘Return, return, hearken unto the voice of wisdom; for she uttereth her voice in the streets of the world, and in the midst of the concourse of the people.’